We finished with fanfest and are now on the bus to Target Field.
This is it. This is why we are here – mostly. While we are here for the national competition, we are really here for the event. The kids will go with the guides and be with them the rest of the night. The parents are now on their own to film and watch. I am a little – not sad, but wistful perhaps, as I would love to follow Matt the whole way. This has been an experience we have shared up until now. I do however want to give MLB and the PH&R credit. They do a great job of including the parents and anticipating everyone’s needs.
Pitch and Run
Target field is beautiful. The day is overcast but it is very comfortable with surprisingly low humidity. Perfect for competition.
The kids warm up and then its pitching. The target here is a little different. It is a cut out. As Ryan pointed out this is probably better because it is clear. If the ball goes in it is a strike. If it does not, it’s not.
Most of the kids, many who hit five or 6 strikes in their team championship are hitting two or three here. For Matt’s group:
Andy – 4 strikes Matt – 3 strikes Casey – 0 strikes
The Blue Angels have flown over three times which is awesome. The hitting is the biggest part for the boys. For the girls, they don’t seem to have as much variance in power as the boys do. It is not uncommon to see a boy hit a ball 50 feet farther than another boy of the same age. That is pretty uncommon with the girls. With hitting, it is your distance times TWO. So you can gain up to 700 points hitting if you can really crush a baseball. The record is 365 feet. A 300 foot shot down the line will net you a cool 600 points. Pitching at 75 points per pitch can yield 450 points. Running, another 400 or so. So pitching and hitting strategically are your best options.
In this round Matt had a hit that was a flat low line drive. His second hit was much more to his wheel house, a good 260 – 270 but a decent way left of the line. His final hit – was 294 a few inches off the tape. It was by far the farthest hit of the day. This would prove to be key.
Matt at Pitch Hit and Run
Matt turned in a respectable 7.08 seconds. His chief competitor? 7.05. I did not get many pictures of Matt running because I had a lot of stuff to juggle. However in the end I got pictures of the kids. We just had to wait until the end of the derby to know who won.
We arrived in Minneapolis without much drama. We had a boring flight which is what you want in travel these days. We woke up at 4:30 AM to get ready to leave by 5:15 so we could arrive at the airport in time for our 7am flight. We got up a little early, but it all worked out as we needed time to check a bag and get through security.
Like I said, the plane flight was uneventful, and the crew were very nice. When we landed, both Matt and I agreed the gate area in Minneapolis was amazing.
What made it impressive was that every table had power, USB ports, and iPads. It was the most useful space I have ever seen at any airport.
We were then met at baggage claim by the event coordinator. They put us on the shuttle to the hotel. There, we were greeted by more staff, and checked into the Pitch, Hit, and Run event.
All in all this is a very well run event. With a few hours to kill before the welcome dinner,m Matt and I decided to hit The Mall Of America.
Mall of America
I remember hearing about this years ago, but the MOA really is very impressive.
Matt and I wandered, bought a gummy worm large enough to put a saddle on and road the rides at the Nickelodeon indoor theme park.
The welcome dinner was a top notch affair and they really loaded the kids up with some nice gifts. I wonder how we will get it all home.
This past week we met some friends from Australia who were visiting the States for their winter holidays. We were super lucky their travels brought them through Arizona. They had two things on their must see list. You can guess the first one (rhymes with bland ban-yon), but the second one I'd never heard of. “Bearizona!” the email said.
What the heck is Bearizona? I asked Stacy. She'd never heard of it. The $20 per head price tag set us back, but at the end of the day that was the only way to see our friends so we drove into the drive-through-wildlife 'adventure' park.
Now, I could try to make a lot of bad jokes and puns, but in truth, I was duly impressed. I expected Meteor Crater like cheese, and instead we got San Diego Zoo like quality.
Located just outside Williams AZ and surrounded by National Forest, Bearizona charged a premium price but delivered a premium experience.
The paddocks are large and full of wild life. The implied danger of the Wolves and Bears wandering around is definitely a thrill but it is the clever paths that wind through each section that give you more views and angles on the animals.
The main “fort"is really well done. They take wrecked cars, buses, and cargo containers to create massive walls and they cover them in shotcrete then have artists turn the concrete into natural looking rock structures. They look like they belong at Disney.
The park was well staffed by people who obviously cared about the animals. All in all I was extremely impressed and I would recommend Bearizona to anyone. If you happen to be up north it's definitely worth a look.
I want this shoe. Who cares if it is practical or not!
Went shopping for new shoes with Matt and we saw this Under Armor display. now Under Armor has some pretty crazy shoes. In fact show designs have become an exercise in the exotic.
I once heard John Lassiter say, “If you have a crazy fabric, make something conventional. If you have some conventional fabric, make something crazy with it. You want to give people something to relate to. When you make a crazy design out of crazy materials people don't know how to connect to it.”
With that in mind we saw some CRAZY fun designs today.
<p>I grew up in Michigan. In Michigan we have lots of water. To find water all you have to do is scratch the ground and it bubbles up. In school they told me that Michigan used to be a swamp. But apparently we cut down all the trees for the lumber industry and that dried it all out. I don't know if it was true, but I learned the word “bog” in Michigan and have not had occasion to use it since leaving. </p>
<p>Why am I telling you this? Because in Michigan if you see 6" of water rushing across your yard something is terribly, terribly wrong. In Arizona however, that happens about once every two weeks if you live in certain parts of the Phoenix Metro area. It reminds me of Frank Herberts book “Dune”. In the books people fight it out on a desert world for “spice” and water is nearly as scarce as this rare substance called “spice”. Where do they get the spice? By drowning giant worms in… water.</p>
<p>Apparently creating floods in a desert is not a new idea. Never the less, to our dogs (who can't read… yet), they think the bi-weekly laking of our back yard is the greatest thing ever.</p>
Tonight with the temperatures topping 100 degrees I wanted Ice Cream – and I think we were all shocked at how many options we had within 2 miles of our house.
We could pick from:
Sonic half price shakes
Cold Stone creamery
and our own fridge.
That is 10, Count them nine places to get an ice cream. And I am sure I missed a few. Now a couple of these are not ice cream only, but that is still a staggering number of choices.
What surprised me was that it is actually quite rare for us to discuss our ice cream choice. Normally we just pick a place and go. But today we had to talk it out. And the big winner was Rita’s Shaved Ice.
If you haven’t been to Rita’s you are missing something. Rita’s makes the smoothest silkiest shaved ice you have ever tried. Most shaved ice tends to run out of flavor quickly, or it has a chunky inconsistency. Not Rita’s. That shaved ice is smooth and filled with flavor through out – like a slushy two degrees before frozen. It is magical.
If you have not tried Rita’s give it a go. Tonight I had the Gilatti which is custard, shaved ice and more custard. My personal favorite was Orange cream, Mango-orange. It was yum!!!
Okay, not my best day or smartest move. I have been carving / whittling for a few years now and last night while watching our little league all stars scrimmage, I struck out. Instead of doing the smart safe thing, I lazily turned a carving over in my hand putting my left hand in the direction of my Flex Steal blade.
You can probably guess how that turned out. At first I thought I'd only nicked myself but a friend looked at me and said, “You're bleeding!” I looked down and saw my hand red with blood and so was my leg. I opened my hand and nearly feinted. Let's just say theres a good reason most of your body is covered with skin. You don't want to look at what is underneath it.
The tools of ignorance
So 5 hours later Leon and Alex and Julia sewed up my ring finger and sent me home from the Hospital. The staff was fantastic and helpful and friendly at Chandler Regional Hospital. Except, no visit to the emergency room is ever really fun.
I am okay, a little wiser for the wear, and I am learning how to write right handed for a while.
This summer I was asked to coach my son’s summer high school baseball team. The program is part of the incoming freshmen league, a part of an informal collection of 13 high schools that offer summer camp-like summer leagues. I say camp-like because in our program we do not cut players unless there is an absolute safety issue.
The nice thing about this program and the way it is structured because it is open to all players is that we can rent the school facilities like any community based program and we can put together some outstanding coach and skill clinics.
Education is meant for everyone. Personally I really prefer this format because you never know when someone will step up and grow into their potential. So much emphasis is put on identifying youth talent that we are pushing players younger and younger into choosing a specific sport.
Of course it is fun to coach talented players who can execute at a high level. However, as a coach I believe we should try to help each player achieve the highest potential of which they are capable of achieving. This idea was put forward by John Wooden. Success is about becoming the best you are capable of becoming.
Summer ball has been a chance to practice that again and it is fun.